May 06

More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, by William Hendriksen ★★★★★

I read this book about 20 years ago and decided to re-read it because of its persisting value in defining how I read and understand the book of Revelation. Hendriksen speaks as an amillennialist, interpreting the book of Revelation as seven sequential parallel stories of human history from the first to the second advent. The overarching theme is that of the saints are more than conquerors in this world, a world that seems to totally beat down the Christian faith. When John wrote the book of Revelation at the end of the first century, persecutions were occurring and there was a great question as to whether or not Christianity would survive. Revelation gives seven recounts of Christians not only surviving but of coming out of the struggles of life as uber-conquerors. I’ve appreciated the amillennial view as a distinct improvement over premillennialism with its very bizarre means of forcing interpretations of Scripture that simply don’t flow naturally, and of post-millennialism, which forces a structure to Scripture that is highly inconsistent. I suppose that no view of eschatology is perfect, and even amillennialism has its inconsistencies, yet seems to read most naturally into the description of the present and future in the Scriptures. Some day it will all come clear, but until then, regardless of the view, our primary focus needs to be that of living holy, devout lives, never wavering from the truth of Scripture.

There is a sense of a story repeating itself in Revelation when reading the book from chapter 1 to chapter 22. Many times, the saints are drawn up into glory and evil defeated. These repetitions are easier to see once pointed out. They are as follows:

Revelation 1: An introduction to the book of Revelation
Revelation 2-3: The story of Christianity when viewed from the example of the churches (the lampstands)
Revelation 4-7: The seven seals (not referring to the Ingmar Bergman film)
Revelation 8-11: The seven trumpets
Revelation 12-14: Christ versus the dragon, the two beasts, and the harlot Babylon
Revelation 15-16: The seven bowls
Revelation 17-19: The defeat of the dragon and his allies
Revelation 20-22: Ultimate Victory through Christ and the new heaven and earth

A careful reading of the book of Revelation with the divisions as seen above will point out that we are simply seeing human history from different perspectives. The greatest perspective is that of Rev. 20-22, where the dragon (Satan) is bound, and the gospel able to go out throughout the whole world. This should excite the saints to no end. Amillennialism is NOT Pessimillennialism as has been proposed by others, but offers the most optimistic view of world history: Christ and the saints ALWAYS come out victorious against evil. The warnings in Revelation against the dragon (Satan himself), the first beast of the sea (world governments), the second beast of land (also called the false prophet, being the world religions and institutions of human construct), and the harlot Babylon (the seductions of wealth, economics, power, sex, fame, and unrestrained freedom), should alert the Christian of the attack on our faith coming in from all sides. We need not fear. We can peek to the end of the story and see how it will all come out. Those who are faithful are guaranteed to be more than conquerors.

I appreciated that Hendrikson did not just provide a summary interpretation of the book of Revelation, but also provided a framework for reading the book. His insistence in constantly bringing to mind the theme of the book of Revelation, of grasping the context and purpose for which the book was written, and of viewing Revelation not as a blow by blow account of the story of history but as providing general themes as to human history, all are relevant to having the best grasp as to what this book is saying. In reference to the last point of the book NOT providing detailed history, general events are those happening throughout the Christian era, such as the differing types of churches, the opening of the seals, the four horsemen, the blowing of the trumpets, and pouring out of the bowls, are all judgments from God happening throughout the Christian era, though perhaps intensifying at the end of our epoch. Henrickson is often very helpful at grasping the symbolism of the book, even though often I felt that many other alternative interpretations could still remain faithful to the text.

Others have since written commentaries on the book of Revelation based heavily on the model discussed by Hendrikson. The last generation of scholars has produced a new generation of excellent thinkers, offering fresh insights into this book that are not difficult to understand once one grasps the overall means of reading and interpreting Revelation. More than Conquerors remains on my list of top books of all time, and one that you also might consider reading.

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2 Responses to “More Than Conquerors”

  1. Bruder dennis says:

    ” … no view of eschatology is perfect, and even amillennialism has its inconsistencies, yet seems to read most naturally into the description of the present and future in the Scriptures.”

    There have been three schools of eschatology down through the centuries, the two based on compressing events, either into the beginning of the church age or into the end of the age (of Pisces), and the historicist view, that it has been happening all along. Amillenialism is mostly a part of the historicist thread, and not only have I become convinced of it, but so also was Isaac Newton, who spent a considerable time on biblical eschatology.

    I have been reading Revelation for the last year, and have a few conjectures:

    1. The four horsemen of the first four seals are not emissaries of doom but are stages of civilization. For instance, the gospel goes out on the white horse and civilization rises. The black horse is often thought of being starvation, but if you look at the prices of the foodstuffs, they are not high during Roman times. Furthermore some of the higher-priced food items were “not harmed”. This is the phase of economic focus. The next horse, the green (chloros in Greek) horse is the death and decay phase, followed by the persecution of what remains of civilization in the fifth seal. In the sixth, the elite take to the tunnels and seal them for fear of the oncoming ET invasion – an armada of spacecraft (“clouds”).

    2. Between the three nestings (seals, trumpets, bowls) is some other stuff, seemingly unrelated. Between seals and trumpets, Israel is accounted for but the tribe of Dan is missing. Could this be because, at John’s time, they had already departed, as the explorer tribe, for Europe?

    3. What everyone wants to get from biblical eschatology is a sequence of events with time markers if not dates. I see it as the author of the books does, that Revelation is not sequential in time.

    The Old Testament prophets are the key to understanding the NT eschatology. Some is fairly clear, such as Jesus warning his followers to leave Jerusalem and head east (which they did). I’m still working on the trumpets. The first three appear to be meteors but could also be nukes, or maybe even volcanic eruptions. The Pacific ring of fire has been lighting up lately.

    • Kenneth Feucht says:

      Your conjectures are inconsistent with what this book is trying to say. Perhaps you should read Hendricksen’s argument and then reassess your conjectures. Hendricksen is consistent with most amillennial Reformed folk.

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